June 30, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, welcome everyone. This is another good day for New York City. You're going to be hearing from several of the appointees today, but this is a big step rounding out an extraordinary team who keeps us safe every day. I'll be talking about Joe Esposito in a moment – we're here to announce him as our new commissioner for the Office of Emergency Management. He'll be joined by a new Senior Advisor on Emergency Planning, Irwin Redlener. And we are thrilled that our OEM First Deputy Commissioner, Calvin Drayton, will be continuing in his role as first deputy, which he's done so well.
You'll be hearing about them and from them in a moment, but I want to start with some thank yous that are well-deserved. The one that is particularly important and personal for me is the one I want to offer to Commissioner Joe Bruno. I've been in public service a long time, and you watch people and you sense what they're really about. And long ago, I came to know Joe Bruno as a man of extraordinary integrity, someone who everyone in government and public service saw as an honest broker, the real deal, someone who does his work for all the right reasons. He's been at it for a long time, but he has kept that passion strong throughout. So I saw in him something very special, and then had the honor of working with him when I came into office. He very graciously agreed to stay on as we went through our transition. He helped us to work our way through a very particular winter – I like to remind people – the snowiest January and February since the Civil War! – and thanks to Joe working with our colleagues, we got through that. Joe was a very important force in helping us deal with the tragedy in East Harlem and so many other situations. So whenever this city has needed Joe Bruno—he's played a lot of different roles over the last decade—but whenever the city has needed him, he has stood up, and he served with extraordinary distinction. Let's thank Joe Bruno for that.
I also want to thank some of the leaders of our administration who played a crucial role in the process of putting together so many of the key appointees in our team, including for OEM. I want to thank our First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris and my Chief of Staff, Laura Santucci, who are both participating in the retreat we're having inside Gracie Mansion right now, and two tremendous leaders who will be working every day with Joe Esposito, of course our police commissioner, Bill Bratton, and our fire commissioner, Dan Nigro. This is, as a team, as good as it gets. I think the people of New York City today are going to feel proud, and they're going to feel a great sense of comfort when they look at the caliber of the people protecting them and the teamwork that this group will display. I very much want to thank also, a true teammate in all the work I've been doing, our Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams––you'll be hearing from him in a minute––but someone who I have turned to on all issues of public safety and appreciate deeply the partnership.
So, let's talk about Joe Esposito. Well, first of all, for you in the media who need a nickname, he already has one. He comes nickname-ready – “Espo.” Do not confuse Joe Esposito with Phil Esposito of the New York Rangers, and previously the Boston Bruins. This Espo, he has been a legend for a long time in the NYPD, and he will continue and build upon the extraordinary tradition that Joe Bruno started of a truly collaborative, inclusive OEM that works with all agencies, that plans, that coordinates, that helps each agency to do all that it can and should do to protect us, to be ready, and then to respond.
It's not an easy job. It takes a tremendous sense of how to balance all the forces and bring them together, but this is something that Joe Esposito's been doing for a long, long time. He spent just a little bit of time at the NYPD—44 years—did everything he wanted to do in that department. Started out at the age of 18—I'm proud to say that he is a Brooklyn native, he remains a Brooklyn native—he started out patrolling the streets of Crown Heights and Bushwick, worked his way up to the highest uniform rank of the NYPD as Chief of Department. He managed the NYPD's planning for every conceivable type of major event, from papal visits to the opening of the UN General Assembly. He's led departments planning for responses to major disasters.
He's also played a key role in two of the most difficult moments that this city's ever faced. And when the city government had to respond to 9/11, when the city government had to respond to Sandy, Joe Esposito was in the first ranks of leadership, finding a way to help people in need, to deal with those extraordinary and unprecedented challenges. So he has literally been there and back. And, in the process, Joe worked with every major city agency. He worked particularly closely with the FDNY, and forged strong working relationships with each agency and with their leaders. As the head of the Office of Emergency Management he has to be ready for anything that can be thrown at him – anything that Mother Nature has in store, any other type of tragedy or challenge – and Joe is ready. He has the extraordinary experience – you couldn't ask for somebody who knows more about New York City and how to protect it – extraordinary depth of knowledge, well-proven leadership skills, and a record of real collaboration and coordination – it's in his nature to help people figure out how to get on the same page. It makes him a perfect person for the job. And so, ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to introduce our city's new OEM Commissioner, Joe Esposito.
Incoming-Commissioner Esposito, OEM: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you.
Mayor: And do want the step or not? You get to choose.
Incoming-Commissioner Esposito: No, I'm okay.
Mayor: Do you want more height, or do you like this?
Incoming-Commissioner Esposito: I'm good.
Mayor: Okay. You're in.
Incoming-Commissioner Esposito: I'm afraid I'll fall off and break my neck. I want to start by thanking God. If it wasn't for God's hand on me I wouldn't be standing here today. I really wouldn't be, so thank you. A close second to God, is the Mayor. Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for having the confidence in me—
Mayor: Shower me with words.
Incoming-Commissioner Esposito: I know when my bread is buttered. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, again for having the confidence in me, for appointing me to this very, very important position. You know, as a youngster, I was born in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, and raised in South Brooklyn. I never imagined—I never could have imagined anything like this to happen to me in my future. And I am humbled, truly humbled, by the opportunity to continue what I like to do the most, which is keeping this city safe, and helping its people, and keeping them safe. Early on I knew I liked helping people, right from my early years, whether as a beat cop on the streets of Crown Heights, or as the Chief of Department during my 44 years with the New York City Police Department. My most rewarding experiences were helping those that needed it the most. It really, really was. When I first joined the NYPD, age of 18, Brooklyn and New York City were very different places. I think those of you that were around in those times could attest to that. Sadly, too many neighborhoods were plagued by drugs, gangs, and crime. it's been incredible, not only to watch the city grow and transform into the safest big city in the nation, but to be a part of it as a police officer.
It has been an honor to lead the world's greatest police force through its toughest times, everything from major storms, blackouts, to major blackouts, major snowstorms, and a terrorist attack. Who could forget 911? Throughout my career I've had the pleasure of working side by side with every city agency, and not only the city, but state and federal agencies as well: FDNY, EMS, OEM, Sanitation, countless others, and again, as I said, state and federal agencies. I've always been impressed by their professionalism, dedication, and effectiveness, in serving New York City. I look forward to continuing my work with them, and more importantly, I look forward to the opportunity to help the people of this city as OEM Commissioner. And to tell the truth, I have some very large shoes to fill. The commissioners who have led this agency before me—there are four of them—did a remarkable job, from forming the agency, back in the early 90s, to leading us through the attack and recovery of 911. This agency has done an outstanding, outstanding job. As my immediate predecessor, Joe Bruno, he has led OEM through more critical events in his tenure than any other OEM Commissioner. Just think of what occurred while he sat in that seat. Tremendous amount of events that he had to handle, and remarkably. So, I pledge to you, Mayor, and to every New Yorker, that I will carry on the standard set by Commissioner Bruno, and the work, and work to ensure that our city is prepared for whatever comes it way, and that all New Yorkers remain safe. Thank you very much.
Unknown: Joe, thank you, Joe.
Unknown: Thank you.
Mayor: You did good.
Unknown: Thank you.
Unknown: Well done brother.
Mayor: Thank you very much. And Joe will have our support in so many ways, and he will also have the help of a new senior advisor on emergency planning, Dr. Irwin Redlener. Irwin has been someone I've had the honor of working with for many, many years. He'll be responsible for helping to establish practices and policies that bolster our ability to respond to disasters, and he is literally one of the world's leading experts on health and disaster response and preparedness. He joins us with his work under his belt at Columbia University, where he's the founder and Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, and Director of the Child Wellbeing and Resilience Program. He's authored books that provide a smart and detailed analysis of how the nation can plan for and respond to large scale disasters. You know, you have governments all over the country, local governments, state governments, and the federal government as well, that call upon him for his expertise. Appointed as a Commissioner of the National Commission on Children and Disasters, he's a consultant to the US Senate committees. I got to know him first when he was an advisor to a little known Senator from New York State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and she constantly turned to Irwin for advice and guidance. And New York City will now have the benefit of his judgment, and his history. Irwin said something that I think really summarizes the approach he takes, and the understanding we have. It's from his books—excuse me, his book, Americans at Risk. He said, quote: “A better state of readiness for major disasters will mean having the courage to accept the threats that are real, and the discipline to design and implement strategies that could actually make a difference.” And that is the right mandate for all of us, and Irwin, we are thrilled that you are going to be a part of the work we do, bringing that approach here to help us. It is my pleasure to invite Dr. Irwin Redlener to the podium.
Special Advisor Irwin Redlener: Well, first of all, thanks very much, thanks very much to the Mayor, for many, many things, and particularly germane to this moment, thanks for assembling just an extraordinary group of commissioners and leaders of the city that will greatly elevate our capacity to make sure that every citizen of this great city—and I mean every citizen, every vulnerable population, rich, poor, in between, every ethnic group [sic]. One of the things when the Mayor came into office with was a sense that we had to be equitable in all of our work for all of the communities in New York City, and that will apply, I'm sure, to the way we think about and plan for disasters: Nobody left out.
I want to congratulate Joe Esposito, also, on getting this job, and actually congratulate all of us for having the good sense to bring somebody with this kind of experience into a major planning position to keep us all safe and secure. And I think it's just going to be an extraordinary team to see Commissioner Esposito, Commissioner Bratton, Commissioner Nigro, Mary Bassett—from the Commission of the Health Department, all will constitute a planning collaboration that's already been started by the police commissioner, and others, and we want to expand that to make sure that there's a series of relationships that are built to make sure that we have the proper collaboration, and proper planning in place.
You know, I was born in Brooklyn, quite a long time ago, and I currently live in Manhattan, and I lived for a while in Astoria, Queens, and even though I've lived about in 45 other places in between, the two bookends here: I am a New Yorker, really born and raised an genetically unadulterated person who cares about this city very much. And I care about it as a matter of policy, and as a matter of principle that new York is as safe as it possibly can be. And I care about it personally, living in New York, as do a couple of my grandchildren and children, and I think we all have a stake in this. And at some level it's about policy, and on another level it's about really making sure everybody feels secure and feels secure in a way that doesn't frighten people. We want to maximize our ability to protect this city, to prevent crisis, to mitigate those that we can't prevent. And at the end of the day, I think people want public servants who will accomplish that job, and I know they will. I myself got interested in disaster preparedness first, actually, in the 1970s, taking medical teams to a huge earthquake in Guatemala, and since then have been involved in most major disasters here that have affected New York City and the Northeast – including 9/11, including Sandy a couple years ago. And there's a lot that we have to do still, but we're starting from a very very good place. New York City has a lot of – I'd say – work to be done in terms of enhancing our ability to collaborate. And I think, as I said, that we're in a very good place to continue that. And while we never could be perfectly prepared for or protected in a free and open society, there's things that we have to face as adults that we're not going to be able to stop or prevent. And when that happens, we want to be profoundly ready to make sure that nobody is left out and everybody is safe.
I just want to really conclude with five points that I think are worth thinking about as we go forward here in terms of planning for disasters.
The first is to enhance the deep capacity to coordinate among government agencies. This is absolutely critical and I think we're well on our way to maximizing that. Coordination is essential – and it's not just among government agencies, it's also between government agencies and voluntary organizations, between government agencies and the private sector. There's a role for all of these sectors to play in making sure that we can do the best job we possibly can.
Secondly, we want to make sure that the scale of our planning will match the scope of what might happen in a big disaster. We can't have little plans for big disasters – and that's one of the things that I really want to help understand.
Thirdly, we have to understand how to communicate the message of preparedness and safety in New York to every citizen. And we have to really rethink how we're going to communicate to make sure that everybody understands and everybody cooperates. And I think we're on our way to being able to do that also.
Fourthly, we need work on our recovery from large-scale disasters. This is one of those areas that I know Joe and I – Joe Esposito and I – have talked about before, and I think we have work to do there – and I'm looking forward to that.
And finally, we need to do everything possible to avert or mitigate the crisis that may happen – and it may be dealing with climate change, it may be dealing with the resiliency of our infrastructure. There's a lot that we need to think about and do. We'll do it all together. And I promise to the mayor, to the city, to the citizens that anything that I can do to help facilitate the work of these commissioners will be my pleasure and responsibility. Thank you.
Mayor: As you may have noticed, I value experience greatly, and Calvin Drayton has extraordinary experience. He's served as first deputy commissioner at OEM since 2002. You know everything that's happened in those years from events that were very local to just a few neighborhoods to true citywide challenges. Calvin has seen it all and he's been a crucial backbone to OEM and its success. I want to bring up our first deputy commissioner, Calvin Drayton.
First Deputy Commissioner Calvin Drayton, OEM: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. This – I must say to you and to First Deputy Mayor Shorris – this must have been a very challenging decision, but you made the right choice. I've known Joe for many many years – 18 years or more – and we've worked on numerous jobs here in the city. And I look forward to seeing Joe take the banner that was set by former-Commissioner Joe Bruno, and extending it and raising it. I look forward to working with you.
I love the office of emergency management. I'm very passionate about the office of emergency management. And I am so pleased that – [inaudible] spoken with the Commissioner Esposito a few minutes ago – he's asked me to stay on and I'm looking forward to working with him. So, let's go to work.
Mayor: Well said. I just want to do a moment in Spanish and then we will take questions, first on topic, then off topic.
With that, on topic first. On topic questions.
Question: I was actually wondering if Commissioner Bratton [inaudible] how they see the police and fire working with OEM moving forward. [inaudible]?
Mayor: I'll bring them up, and I'll just say as we prepare to hear from them, I have made very clear throughout this process – I not only believe in close coordination with the agencies, I insist on it. That's the only way we're going to get things done – and Chief Esposito understood that fully and, again, has a long history of that. So that's the way we're going to manage all of this. But let's hear from the two commissioners.
Commissioner Bratton: Well, I think was clearly evident during the first six months of the administration, working with Commissioner Bruno, that the collaboration on the various snowstorms and other events, that the mayor is clearly intent on expanding on the success of that collaboration. It's something the fire commissioner, myself, and Joe are committed to. We have the benefit, between us, of over 130 years of experience dealing with these types of issues. And in terms of Joe – I've known him for 20-some-odd years. Joe's known the fire commissioner for an extended period of time. They worked together during the 9/11 disaster. No – this is a – it's not just a team, it's an intimate collaboration. Building on the work we did Joe – excuse me, with Commissioner Bruno – Monday morning, all three of us are scheduled for a breakfast to get to know each other a little better in our new capacities.
Senior Advisor Redlener: There's certainly not much I could add to that, other than to say that we're all part of the same team. We're going to work together every day starting, as Commissioner Bratton said, Monday morning at 8 o'clock. I'm very happy to have my friend Joe Esposito along with us now as commissioner of OEM. And I think we're going to do great things together.
Mayor: I'm impressed by that 130 years of experience. Approximate. Okay. Preliminary, exactly – my favorite word. Oh, wait. I – you know what? – in my haste – Eric, I apologize – before we get further in questions. No, no, you have to come up. I misread my own instructions here. I mentioned that we were going to hear from Borough President Eric Adams. And, as I bring him up, I just want to say – I said earlier, I've turned to Eric on many many occasions, because he has an extraordinary perspective. Really I can't think of anyone that I've worked with in these years who combines the experience of having been a police officer, ultimately a captain, and having been a community leader, ultimately elected official, ultimately Brooklyn borough president. So he has a particular perspective on all of the things that go into keeping us safe and how to do them in a way that's equitable. And he's someone I turn to for advice – and this case as well, as we were making this decisions. Let's bring forward the borough president, Eric Adams.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you. And, you know, both [inaudible] standing to the right and left of me, I remember the mayor having conversations as he was moving to appoint the position of police commissioner – and I was excited then with the thought of having Commissioner Bratton back here in New York to complete what I believe he started internationally about actually allowing public safety. And we can cannot thank the mayor enough on that appointment. And the same is true with Joe Esposito. I recall the days of policing – in the embryo stages of my policing career where none of the agencies coordinated. Firefighters and police officers used to respond to scenes and actually get into physical altercations. I recall cases where firefighters were arrested for responding to scenes and police officers in the interaction. So the coordination is important. New York City is a band of great rock stars, but we need someone that's going to turn mere sound into a music that's symphony is well understood – and we have a maestro in Joe Esposito, dedicated to the city to ensure public safety. This is another chapter in, I think, a great romance novel of a Brooklyn boy done well and will continue to protect us. Thank you, Joe.
Mayor: Romance novel. So we're changing your title to maestro now. Okay. Alright. Forgive me for a digression from the program. Now, continuing on-topic.
Question: Well, I guess, certainly one of the biggest challenges that OEM has confronted in recent years was Hurricane Sandy. And so I wondered if anybody would like to [inaudible] a little bit on what aspects of the response [inaudible]?
Mayor: I'm just going to say a few words to open and then Chief Esposito, of course, and if Irwin wants to add as well. You know, I think we've been very very focused, as you know, on recovery from Sandy. We've been doing a lot to get the Build the Back program to work – and all the things to try and get people back on their feet. But simultaneously, a lot of the big pieces on the resiliency side have started to move. Go out and see the beaches in the Rockaways and you see real changes that have been made to protect us. You're going to see a number of projects. We just announced a whole set of projects that were funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that are very profoundly important resiliency programs. So, I think what I can say safely is, the physical reality of New York City is going to change, even just over the next five years. We are going to be a much more physically resilient city because of all the spending that's gone on, because of the work of the army corps of engineers, because of all elements that came out of the Sandy bill – and efforts we're taking ourselves. We're also – with our building code – making changes in how we build; with our planning process, making changes. So, we got a huge wake-up call with Sandy. And I'm someone who believes this entire nation and this entire globe has to look at the threat of global warming more seriously – and we're going to be unveiling a series of steps that New York City can take to reduce our emissions and do more to contribute to reversing this horrible trend. But I can safely say – a lot is already underway in terms of fundamental and physical resiliency to make us safer. Now let me turn to Joe.
Incoming-Commissioner Esposito: Thank you. I guess, as you know, I was the chief of department during Sandy. And what I saw was a tremendous response by all the agencies – not just police and fire, but buildings, EMS, OEM. The response was really a yeoman's job. But, as Commissioner of OEM, I would take a look at all the plans that were put in place – I would take a look at all of the critiques. Many of the agencies did critiques on themselves. I'm going to look at all those critiques, look at the plans, and see how we can better our response in all the areas. And that's what's going to carry me through my whole time at OEM. I'll be constantly assessing plans, programs, on how to make them better so we can address things such as Sandy.
Special Advisor Redlener: I just want to say that every disaster are opportunities to learn to get better the next time. Every disaster – from 9/11 to Sandy, Katrina – everything is a lesson in that realm. And very often these disasters are called wake-up calls, but they turn into more like snooze alarms where we aroused and excited and we're responding and we're doing our thing, and then there's always this sort of slippage – this happens everywhere in the world, actually – slippage of attention, [inaudible] backs up, and it's left to people like colleagues on the stage here to make sure, as Joe just said, that those lessons are absorbed and we get to do things better the next time. Ultimately, we may be able to, under the mayor's leadership, create circumstances where the threat from exactly the kind of storm that Sandy was will not be as dangerous and consequential to citizens. We'll do those things that will fix the infrastructure – changing the building codes, figuring out how to manage recovery as fast and as effectively as possible. So, the idea of what comes from Sandy should be more improvement in how we do things – not only the improvement in the response, which was really spectacular among all the relevant agencies, but also improve our ability to prevent and to mitigate and to make sure that every citizen knows what he or she or their families need to do when disaster is confronting us.
Mayor: Thank you, Irwin. I want to pick-up on the snooze alarm point, because that's a – I like that – powerful point.
Special Advisor Redlener: It's all yours – I'll never say it again.
Mayor: No, no. I'll steal it, but I'll give you credit. When I thought about forming this administration, I was very focused on a sense of urgency in the leadership positions, because the snooze metaphor is very powerful here. It is true. There is a sad tendency in government to forget the full ramifications of what just happened or underestimate – it's a little more convenient not to look in the face some of these problems. When you think about the leaders we have here today – Joe Esposito, Bill Bratton, Dan Nigro – these individuals have an urgency to them – the way they have served, the way they think about life – there is a passion and an urgency. So, if you look at their careers and what they've done, they don't look away from problems. They grapple with them, they create, they go places people didn't think were possible – and that's what we're going to need here. We're in a whole new dynamic. Global warming alone means we have a whole set of challenges that were inconceivable just a decade or two ago. So, we're going to approach them with real urgency. On topic. On topic going once. On topic going twice.
Question: Are you happy with the – this is probably one of your last appointments – at least for the first go-around.
Question: So are you happy with the pace that you've gone at? You know, we're in June. There's at least – I can think of one more commissioner that you might be appointing. What do you think of the pace of those appointments so far? And how has that been for you?
Mayor: Wouldn't trade it in for anything. It's – I've said to some people that when we started the transition, I called around to some of the key figures in previous transitions to ask their broad advice, and several of them said the exact same thing. They said it's not about the day you name someone – it's about choosing the best person. And we were adamant that we were going to go about this methodically, because these decisions were for keeps. You know, each of these folks, I'm convinced, has been doing, will be doing a great job. You make a decision like this – it might be for four years. If the people decide they want to re-up the contract, it could be for eight years. These are positions that are amongst the most challenging in the United States of America – you better damn well get it right. And we're very satisfied that we went through a methodical process. We got the very best people. We got the right team that could coordinate, the right chemistry. So I feel very satisfied. Last chance, on topic. Going once. Going twice. Off topic.
Question: [inaudible] housing immigrant unaccompanied minors in Beth Paige. That plan has been scuttled. Is there room in New York City for these children who are coming to the United States [inaudible] parents or?
Mayor: I don't know what happened in Long Island, so I can't respond with that comparison. I've looked into this issue just a bit. Our immigrant affairs commissioner, Nisha Agarwal, has been obviously quite aware of this trend and trying to understand what it means for us. What we do know so far is that to the extent that any of these children come as far as New York City – and obviously this is a – when I was down in Dallas I spoke to some of the Texas mayors – it's a huge challenge, particularly closer to the border – but to the extent some of these kids end up in New York City, to date what we're seeing is the vast majority go to family members who are already here. So I don't want to leave anyone with the misconception that these are children literally alone on the streets of New York City. That appears to be very very rare, thank God. But I think it really is just a subset of a bigger challenge we have working with immigrants of all kinds. Obviously very proud of the municipal ID that was passed this week – that's going to be a way of helping and connecting with immigrants who happen to be undocumented, as well as a lot of other New Yorkers who will benefit from the ID. And I think this is a city that has an incredible record of reaching out to immigrants of all kinds, providing help, encouraging them to work with law enforcement, and reducing some of the barriers that might've existed. So I think this challenge – to the extent it does effect us – we will handle the way we handle all matters of immigration.
Question: Can you speak a bit about the city's role in the Atlantic Yards affordable housing deal – speeding up that timeline and how that project now fits into your affordable housing game-plan?
Mayor: Well, it's an important part of it. Our deputy mayor, Alicia Glen, is famously an aggressive negotiator. And I gave her the instruction to go and ensure that the long-awaited affordable housing at Atlantic Yards would happen as soon as possible. And I'm someone who supported that project from the beginning and believed it could be pivotal to ensuring economic diversity in that area of Brooklyn – in the area I come from. But the pace of the affordable housing has just plain been too slow and we were not going to see that pattern continue. And by the way, the state of New York felt the same way. So I feel very good about where we stand now – that affordable housing is going to start right away. Two buildings, fully affordable, will be built in the next few years – and then there's aggressive plan thereafter – and it will certainly contribute greatly to our overall affordable housing effort.
Question: I was wondering if you comment at all on the arrest today of Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa. I know you were at her victory party when she won –
Mayor: I literally am hearing it the first from you, so I can't comment until I hear more about it.
Question: Mr. Mayor, last year on the campaign trail you said that you would absolutely advance the sugary drink legislation in the City Council if the Court of Appeals rejected it. Can you tell us today exactly where you stand on that. Are you going to keep that commitment [inaudible] either way?
Mayor: I want to achieve the goal, unquestionably. I'm obviously very disappointed by the court decision, you know. I think everyone in this audience knows I didn't exactly agree with Michael Bloomberg every day, but this is an area where I thought he was right on the money. I thought that we had to stop addressing the obesity crisis with half measures, and I say it as a parent. I understand what parents are going through, trying to get their kids on the right path in terms of health and nutrition, and it is a jungle out there, because all sorts of really bad food is available, including 64-ounce sugary drinks at fast food restaurants, so Michael Bloomberg was taking us in the right direction on that, and I'm sorry the court disagreed. We now have to figure out a way to achieve the same result. I'd love to get legislation through the City Council. We're going to talk to them about it. I think it's quite clear that they are not embracing the notion in the first instance. So, if we can find a way forward together, that's still the ideal. If not we are going to look at other measures that might be helpful.
Wait, you got one before, I'm going to go behind you first.
Question: There was a report this week that the police department is reviewing the increase of shootings to the decline of stop-and-frisk. Is there anything considered if the analysis comes through that there is an increase in shootings because of the decline of stop-and-frisk?
Mayor: No, I wouldn't phrase it that way at all, and I'll start and Commissioner Bratton will join in. First of all, I would say about Commissioner Bratton, this is one of the most analytical leaders in any field of endeavor anywhere in public service in this country. He is legendary for constantly assessing the work of the agencies he runs. That is why he is the father of Compstat, among other things. This is the way he does things, is to constantly check what's going on and do actual numerical studies to figure out what's working and what's not. Right now, we feel good about where we are. Overall, crime is down. The murder rate, obviously, in an improved position compared to last year. We have a long way to go, but so far that's a fact. There are some categories where things are clearly improved. There are some categories where we have to do more work. But right now we're making major additions in some of the most needy areas. A number of troop movements have already happened, moving officers where they're most needed. We have a graduating class next week. We're going to amplify that. Obviously the efforts of the City Council that led us to take the actions on civilianization. So our overall picture is quite strong, and more immediate changes are happening to even strengthen that further – the number of arrests is at a high number, meaning we see strong police activity at the local level, and that what we see less of is the kind of stops that were not productive, where of course in the past, and about 90% of those who were stopped were found to have done nothing wrong at all. We've gotten away from those kind of stops. There's a lot of police activity, there's a lot of arrests and they're focused on people who've done something wrong. So we feel very good about the overall situation but I absolutely support every effort that the Commissioner makes to keep analyzing what's working and figure out how best to move forward.
Commissioner Bratton: Thank you for that question because I think there's an awful lot of confusion around this issue. Shootings in the city—shootings with victims—so far this year going into this week were up about ten percent. This week compared to the same time last week were down about 70 percent—
Mayor: Last year.
Commissioner Bratton: In shootings. We're down about 80% in homicides for this week versus last year. So looking at short-term comparisons is difficult. You look over—trending—over time. I'd also point out that the rate of shootings—that we have about 5 shootings per 100,000 population. The second-largest city in the country, Chicago, excuse me, the second largest city in the country, Los Angeles, has a rate of about 21 shooting victims per 100,000. And the city of Chicago, the third-largest, has a rate of 28 shooting victims per 100,000. So we are the safest large city in America, even with this spike that's occurred over these last couple of months. And I'd point out that this year is in fact—following last year—is the second-lowest number of shootings that we've had in history. What I do as a police commissioner is I look at things that impact on our performance. We're revamping all of our technology, you had a couple nice articles this morning on the new tablets that we're going to be distributing to our officers. I look at what's affecting morale: we've made a lot of changes in circumstances to improve the morale of the Department, which I made quite clear, the studies were done, showed it was very low. I look at leadership and quite clearly I've made a lot of changes in the leadership of the department over the last six months. So it's a natural thing for me any time I have a divergence—whether it's shootings up, shootings down—I want to have some sense: are there causal factors that I need to be aware of? Being quite frank with you, my speculation is even before the study comes back—I'd be very surprised if we're going to show any direct correlation between the decline of stop, question and frisk and the short-term increase in shootings. I'd also point out that beginning next week we'll have almost 1200 additional officers going out onto the streets of New York City as we begin the summer months. We have an old adage in policing, you put cops on the dots, you tend to usually see that the dots begin to decline very dramatically. We have a lot of cops starting next week we're going to put on those areas where we've seen that spike in shootings. Thank you.
Question: Commissioner Esposito took to the witness stand to defend the status quo of stop and frisk. Did that trouble you at all? Did that influence your decision to appoint him?
Mayor: Well, it didn't influence my decision to appoint him as I just appointed him. Ah, look I disagreed with the previous administration's approach. A lot of people worked in the Bloomberg administration who are good people. Didn't mean they agreed with everything. They were doing their job, but I think the bottom line to me is—look—we're talking about OEM, we're talking about who can help us to be ready for disasters and other challenges we face who will be able to handle the aftermath, who will be able to coordinate with the other agencies. This is a guy who's walked through fire. I mean you'd think—I would daresay, again I just came back from the conference of mayors—I was talking to mayors all over the country. What Joe Esposito went through in an average week in New York City would make most mayors or police commissioners or OEM commissioners around the country's head curl. What he thinks is normal. He has seen it all. And when I thought about that leadership capacity in the face of whatever could be thrown at us. That gave me absolute confidence he was the right man for the job.
Question: So last week you attributed a 1.1 billion dollar increase in the executive budget to labor costs. [inaudible] a new labor budget. And—
Mayor: But also almost exact offset in terms of new revenue.
Question: Those budgets then haven't gone towards personnel costs. Could you ex—
Mayor: I'm sorry, explain. What's your question?
Question: Many of the budgets that we have looked at have not been towards personnel costs—the agency budgets.
Mayor: Okay, let me clarify and then we'll certainly have OMB update you further. So we started out with the previous year's budget. We've ended up now—first preliminary budget, then exec, then adoption—we've ended up about 2 billion change from last year and the 2 billion is basically split in half. One billion of that is changes based on the labor contracts—again, about a billion new in expenses offset by about a billion revenue because of the health care savings, etc. The other billion is other types of budget growth, whether it's new needs, inflation, costs that came up, or—in some cases—new programming choices. So putting aside the labor deal—and I remind everyone the labor deal was years and years overdue and had to be resolved—we've got about a billion in real new impact compared to the previous year. So from 73 billion to 74 billion, which is a pretty small change all things considered, and naturally budgets do increase each year—inflation alone and new expenses alone. So we think it's all quite consistent. We've been thrilled with the response from the rating agencies, the response in the bond market. All the different monitors we're looking at believe this is a very sound budget and I think the most important factor here is the resolution of the labor issues. You know, first with the UFT—the ratification of the UFT contract, the vote by the Municipal Labor Council, now, of course, we've had a couple more contracts that just got agreed to. This now puts us on a firm footing going forward. This was the big question mark about the future of New York City: would the labor situation get resolved? It's being resolved and that's why the monitors feel a lot of comfort right now.
Question: As you may have seen, the Associated Press has a story out today about suicides at Rikers Island, finding that of the 11 in the past 5 or so years, 9 of them appear that they could've been prevented had procedures that were in place been followed. You were contacted about that yesterday, but now that you've had the chance to see the full report, what further thoughts do you have?
Mayor: It's very troubling. It's very troubling and it's—look, it's an indication of what has been wrong for a long time at Rikers and what has to change. And one of the things that I like in leaders of agencies is blunt honesty. You'll certainly see it from these leaders. And Joe Ponte, Corrections, to his great credit has said from the beginning: this is an unacceptable state of affairs. Said it before in the City Council at the budget hearing. I've communicated with him frequently about the changes we have to make. Some of this is a history of ineffective management and we're changing that very quickly. Lax standards. But some of this is a lack of focus on the mental health needs of the inmates. I've said many times, in this country we have a big problem: we treat our jails and our prison systems as a substitute for a real mental health system and that's unacceptable table. And so a lot of the biggest challenges at Rikers are individuals with mental health issues. We've put a substantial new investment in this current budget—the budget that we just passed—into addressing the mental health needs at Rikers. We think that's going to make a big difference and I can safely say about Joe Ponte: if you look into his history he's been a change agent everywhere he's gone. He's taken on incredibly tough situations all over the country and he has gone in and made dysfunctional situations functional and that's what he's going to do here. Thanks everyone!